Estimation of malaria haplotype and genotype frequencies: a statistical approach to overcome the challenge associated with multiclonal infections.
Taylor AR., Flegg JA., Nsobya SL., Yeka A., Kamya MR., Rosenthal PJ., Dorsey G., Sibley CH., Guerin PJ., Holmes CC.
BACKGROUND: Reliable measures of anti-malarial resistance are crucial for malaria control. Resistance is typically a complex trait: multiple mutations in a single parasite (a haplotype or genotype) are necessary for elaboration of the resistant phenotype. The frequency of a genetic motif (proportion of parasite clones in the parasite population that carry a given allele, haplotype or genotype) is a useful measure of resistance. In areas of high endemicity, malaria patients generally harbour multiple parasite clones; they have multiplicities of infection (MOIs) greater than one. However, most standard experimental procedures only allow measurement of marker prevalence (proportion of patient blood samples that test positive for a given mutation or combination of mutations), not frequency. It is misleading to compare marker prevalence between sites that have different mean MOIs; frequencies are required instead. METHODS: A Bayesian statistical model was developed to estimate Plasmodium falciparum genetic motif frequencies from prevalence data collected in the field. To assess model performance and computational speed, a detailed simulation study was implemented. Application of the model was tested using datasets from five sites in Uganda. The datasets included prevalence data on markers of resistance to sulphadoxine-pyrimethamine and an average MOI estimate for each study site. RESULTS: The simulation study revealed that the genetic motif frequencies that were estimated using the model were more accurate and precise than conventional estimates based on direct counting. Importantly, the model did not require measurements of the MOI in each patient; it used the average MOI in the patient population. Furthermore, if a dataset included partially genotyped patient blood samples, the model imputed the data that were missing. Using the model and the Ugandan data, genotype frequencies were estimated and four biologically relevant genotypes were identified. CONCLUSIONS: The model allows fast, accurate, reliable estimation of the frequency of genetic motifs associated with resistance to anti-malarials using prevalence data collected from malaria patients. The model does not require per-patient MOI measurements and can easily analyse data from five markers. The model will be a valuable tool for monitoring markers of anti-malarial drug resistance, including markers of resistance to artemisinin derivatives and partner drugs.